Members of the Service Employees (SEIU) in
This campaign, however, pits SEIU members not against anti-immigrant employers or politicians, but against their union’s top officials. Dubbing their campaign “No Worker is Illegal,” members of SEIU throughout
McCain-Kennedy, which will likely be the model for any immigration reform bill proposed by the incoming, Democratically-controlled Congress, would have established a federal “guest worker” program, under which employers could hire immigrant workers on a temporary basis without providing them a guaranteed path to citizenship.
McCain-Kennedy would have also further militarized the U.S.-Mexico border and leveled sanctions against employers who hire undocumented immigrants.
Renee Saucedo, a member of SEIU Local 790 in
“[Guest worker] programs make immigrants more vulnerable and less likely to take the risks that go along with joining a union. . . . Employer sanctions can lead to discrimination, since some employers will try to avoid hiring immigrants altogether — or anyone who looks or talks like them.”
Frustrated with their international’s position, members of Local 790 began reaching out to members of other SEIU locals in
On October 12, SEIU members and staff from these locals got together and decided they would push the SEIU International Executive Board to address immigration reform at its January 2007 meeting. Their first task was to get the international’s attention.
TAKING IT TO THE TOP
Luckily, SEIU International President Andy Stern was in the
Saucedo remembers, “We explained to him that this was not just
“We told him that as a union, we should never be supporting anything that hurts workers — like guest worker, employer sanctions.”
According to Saucedo, Stern next sent out SEIU’s head immigration policy person, Cuc Vu, to meet with the “No Worker is Illegal” folks. Says Saucedo, “We had a five hour meeting with her. She came with the
SEIU’s international office did not respond to multiple calls for comment.
Saucedo doesn’t find Stern and Vu’s arguments convincing. She notes that SEIU took a strong position against the war in
More than a fear of backlash, Local 790 member Brian Cruz thinks the primary reason the SEIU international is supporting guest worker is that “SEIU sees building partnerships with employers as the way to build the union.
“It’s the way Andy Stern spells it out in his book. He calls it ‘Team
Cruz notes that as recently as 1999, “SEIU was a big part of the push to support amnesty for all immigrant workers. When guest worker started coming out, [SEIU Vice President] Eliseo Medina came out against it.
“Now,” Cruz continues, “
For now, No Worker is Illegal plans to pressure the executive board during the lead-up to its January meeting. Whatever happens, Cruz says that SEIU members will continue to push for a general amnesty for immigrants.
As long as there are undocumented workers, says Cruz, “employers will use them as a wedge to thwart any organizing. Trying to build a fair compromise around guest worker is pie-in-the-sky.”